Reflections on Ghana

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About a month ago, Chief Technology Officer, Gillian Henker, and Chief Marketing Officer, Katherine Kirsch, returned from another successful trip from Ghana. Both wanted to share their insights on the trip and what it means for Sisu Global Health:

Return to Ghana: Fifth Times the Charm

Gillian Henker, CTO

After mentioning that I have been to Ghana five times, many Ghanaians say to me “Ah, you must really like Ghana. Why do you keep coming back?” I first arrived in 2010 with 12 other students; most of whom had never set foot in Africa before. As young engineering students, we relied almost entirely on ties through our university name. Four years later, I still find myself saying I went to the University of Michigan and making those connections with anyone who has been to Ann Arbor.

After that first trip, I often traveled to Ghana by myself. Working in a team again, our Ghanaians contacts could see there was a new breath of life in the company. Conversations have evolved from hesitant technical inquiries to confident entrepreneurial investigations. Katie and I were able to bring together marketing and technical goals for our field visits. Every time I travel to Ghana I am continually inspired, particularly from the doctors, nurses, technicians, engineers and community health workers.

For the first time, I was inspired equally by other entrepreneurs (including heads of Vytrak, Rik Air and Persistent Energy Ghana) who I consider my peers. All of these people are the reason I go back.

From left to right: Katherine Kirsch, Sisu's CMO, Dr. James Akazili of Navrongo Health Research Center and past researcher at University of Michigan, his son, Eusebius Alowine Gavin Akazili, and Gillian Henker, Sisu's CTO

From left to right: Katherine Kirsch, Sisu's CMO, Dr. James Akazili of Navrongo Health Research Center and past researcher at University of Michigan, his son, Eusebius Alowine Gavin Akazili, and Gillian Henker, Sisu's CTO

Return to West Africa: Hello Ghana!

Katherine Kirsch, CMO

This was my first visit to Ghana- though not my first trip to West Africa. I was excited for the color of the fabrics, the constant sunshine and the heavy rhythm of the business week. Of course, we were lucky enough to have fairly consistent internet, but appointments and any real progress happens face-to-face. Relationships are the key to pushing progress in many domains and cultures, and Ghana is a strong reminder that nothing works better than making a personal effort. Email and websites are still not a large part of the culture and virtual communication can sometimes be much slower than a quick conversation.

One of the easiest entrances into the Ghanaian network was through our lovely host family, the Boahene’s. Gillian had stayed with them in past trips and they certainly offered a warm welcome this time. The family was incredibly hospitable, feeding us homemade local food each evening. They even had a connection to Grand Rapids. Their son and daughter-in-law live in the city after going to Calvin together. Having a home in Accra, the capital city, made traveling around the country to show off the devices to a variety of doctors and administrators.

Most of all, the trip demonstrated the excitement that surrounds our work. Helping to build relationships with the doctors, nurses and technicians only makes me more anxious to return. 

A vista from Cape Coast, Ghana

A vista from Cape Coast, Ghana